Open Response to Charles

Charles

In response to your comment – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/exonerating-the-sinless-ii/#comment-15142

You attempt to compare the books of the prophets to the writings of the followers of Jesus. The comparison is outrageous. The prophets were not part of a separate community. But in the eyes of the gospel writers – the sharpest distinction in the world was that which divided “believers” and “non-believers”.

Here is an excerpt from “Supplement to Contra Brown” that is relevant to your irrelevant comment.

The prophets wrote and spoke their rebuke as a rebuke to their own following, while the authors of the Christian scriptures wrote their invective as accusations against people outside the sphere of their following. The Jewish books of scripture were read as a chastisement to the people who considered the prophet’s words holy, while the books of the Christian scriptures are read until today, as character assassination of Jesus’ opponents, and as words of self-righteous reassurance to the “believers”. The Jewish prophets included themselves when they spoke of the sins of their nation (Exodus 16:28, Jeremiah 14:29, Isaiah 64:5, Psalm 106:6, Daniel 9:5, Ezra 9:6, Nehemiah 9:33). The authors of the Christian scriptures never saw themselves or their intended audience as a part of the group that they were maligning.

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Exonerating the “Sinless” II

Exonerating the “Sinless” II

Reason 1

In response to comment – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/exonerating-the-sinless-another-open-letter-to-concerned-reader/#comment-15012

Concerned Reader

You still haven’t explained your double standard. Why is it that the Church Fathers, who were direct disciples of Paul, are not qualified to legitimize a method of interpretation, while the Qumran community, who was so many generations removed from the prophets, is qualified to legitimize a method of interpretation?

In any case, your attempt to exonerate John’s Jesus falls flat. You want to use the Qumran community to legitimize the hate-talk of the Christian Scriptures. (What else will you use them to legitimize?) Who told you that the Qumran community was righteous? Just because some Jews were engaged in hate-talk doesn’t mean that it is OK for Jews to talk like this about each other. These were evil people and their example does not make a behavior acceptable or righteous.

Furthermore, let us assume that amongst loving friends, harsh words of rebuke are tolerated, righteous and acceptable. But this would only make sense if in every other instance the speaker of these harsh words showed love and respect for the people he was rebuking. It would only be possible to justify such harsh speech if the targets of the rebuke recognized that the speaker was a man who sincerely respected them. But John’s Jesus is not such a man. You could speculate that he did respect them. But that would remain your own speculation.

Finally, your entire argument is based on the premise that the audience of the rebuke was Jewish and they would have taken the words as loving remonstration. But your premise has no basis in reality. Perhaps it is true that when Jesus uttered those words he was talking to Jews. But by the time the books were put in to writing the audience was no longer Jewish. The gentile community that canonized these books canonized a text whose central character demonizes their own theological opponents. It is this central character that this community worships and it is this central character that this community looks to as the epitome of righteousness.

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Pillars of Faith

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Pillars of Faith

The Scripture uses various words to speak of the commandments of the Torah. One of the terms that is used to refer to the commandments is the word: “edut” = testimony. In a certain sense all of the commandments can be referred to as “edut” because they all testify to the basic truth that God is our Father and King and that we are His children and servants who received His Law through Moses. But certain specific commandments stand out in that they are witnesses to specific truths that serve as the bedrock of our faith.

The concept of an observance serving as a witness goes to the heart of the commandments. One of the underlying themes of the commandments is the sanctity that they infuse into our lives, and through us, into the world around us. Thinking of the concept that the commandment represents, or even…

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Exonerating the “Sinless” – another open letter to Concerned Reader

Exonerating the “Sinless” – another open letter to Concerned Reader

(in response to comment – http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/the-guilt-of-books/#comment-14742 )

Concerned Reader

So you stand by your accusation that my statement – “without Christianity the holocaust would not have happened” – is highly inflammatory and is based on mere speculation.

Let me go back to my parable (for the benefit of those who haven’t read my comment).

The institution has been pouring gasoline for one thousand and eight hundred years on a specific city. The city is saturated with gasoline. And then someone comes and lights a fire and the entire city goes up in flames.

And you still say that it is only speculation to say that without the gasoline pourers the city would not have burned.

The fact is that it is this gasoline (Christian hate) that fueled this particular fire. You want to speculate and say that had Jesus not been born then some other person would have inspired generations of gasoline pourers to target this city. Perhaps; but then admit that you are the one engaged in wild speculation.

In a more recent comment you reiterated your argument that the ones who lit the fire were not of the same institution as the gasoline pourers.

Your argument is irrelevant. The fire would never have burned as it did had the city not been so thoroughly saturated with gasoline. The lighters were very limited in the scope of their influence. The lighters only had a few years to preach and their preaching was limited to one country. The gasoline pourers had been pouring gasoline for centuries and their influence warped the moral compasses in every country in which the fire burned.

Your argument is also inaccurate. The philosophy of the lighters is a direct continuum from the institution of gasoline pourers as documented by many students of history. Furthermore, recognized members of the institution were involved in lighting the fire and not only in pouring gasoline (http://holocaustrevealed.org/Church/Vatican_Hiding.htm ).

Let us move on to another point that you raise in your comment. You argue that the Jesus of the Christian Scriptures was not preaching the hate that was later spewed from Church pulpits. According to you, Jesus was only accusing those who had already examined all of the necessary evidence that should make it obvious to them that he was the Messiah and still reject him. You contend that this would clearly exclude Jewish people who see no evidence that would make them believe the claims of Jesus.

Your argument fails for four different reasons.

You allow the most liberal reading of the Jewish Scriptures in order to justify your acceptance of the claims of the Christian Scriptures. You point to the texts of the Qumran community as examples of legitimate interpretation of the words of the Jewish prophets. Can you then explain to this audience why it is that the words of Jesus need to be read most literally? Why are the hateful Church Fathers not qualified to set an example in interpreting the text that they canonized? Why the double standard?

A second reason your argument fails is that you have ignored the passages in which Jesus speaks of the predisposition of those who reject him. John’s Jesus speaks of people who love darkness as opposed to those who would come to the light. This is not a judgment against an evil activity; this is a redefinition of certain people. These are not people who made a bad choice. Jesus is describing people who are incapable of choosing good. Your attempt to exonerate Jesus does not explain these sentiments.

The third reason your argument fails is that you assume that readers of the Christian Scriptures will recognize that one who has not yet seen the evidence for Jesus’ claims does not stand condemned by Jesus’ harsh words. But John’s Jesus tells his audience that the Jews already have all the evidence. According to John’s Jesus all one needs to do is believe in Moses and the prophets in order to discover the “truth” of Christianity. Since many Jews already read Moses and the prophets and still don’t accept the claims of the Church, so even according to your reading of Jesus they stand condemned by his accusations.

The fourth reason your argument fails is the simple fact that no evidence has ever been presented that would convince one to believe in the Messianic claims appended to Jesus.

Let me conclude by going back to my original statement: without Christianity the holocaust would not have occurred. It seems that you are offended by this statement. Allow me to word it differently (not that you presented any reason for me to reevaluate my statement). How about if I say that the hatred that burned in the hearts of so many Europeans toward the Jewish people was fueled and fed by the clergy of the various denominations of Christianity. This hatred was nurtured and cultivated for many dark centuries. And when the social and political climate allowed for it, this hatred was a major factor that contributed to the death of six million Jews.

Can you agree to that statement?

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Joy and Repentance

Joy and Repentance

The holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) follows immediately after Yom Kippur, a day dedicated for repentance and forgiveness. Sukkot is called “the time of Joy” and it is understood that the connection between these two holidays is that the forgiveness from God that we merit on Yom Kippur gives us the joy that we celebrate on Sukkot.

This is certainly a true sentiment but there is much more to the joy of Sukkot and there is much more to the connection between joy and repentance.

Although repentance is generally associated with grief and regret but repentance is also intimately tied up with joy. Repentance means reentering the service of God after having left it. It means regretting specific actions of violation of God’s will and it means regretting a path of life that was not in conformance with God’s will.

There are different aspects of regret. One could regret on the basis of becoming aware of the consequences of violating God’s will. One could regret upon realizing how horrible it is for a created being to violate the will of its Creator. One could regret upon contemplating the ugliness of sin.

All of these are aspects of regret, but what is regret without appreciating what should have been? How can one regret having left the service of the Creator without realizing the privilege, the love, the depth, the beauty, the purpose and the meaning of serving the Creator? What is regret without realizing what was lost? A time that could have been spent in God’s embrace was spent otherwise.

But we have the ability to serve God now! Every breath of life and every beat of your heart is another opportunity to serve, to thank, and to enjoy His embrace. If you don’t appreciate what you have now then how do you know what you missed when you violated His will? How deep is your regret?

Appreciating what it means to serve God is the introduction to repentance and it is the product of repentance. Returning to stand before God is the deepest joy of the created.

Posted in Atonement, Holidays | 2 Comments

Supplement to Noachide Worship – by Jim

(in response to http://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/noachide-worship-by-jim/#comment-14819)

Thomas,

 

Thank you for you comment.

 

Allow me to clarify things with two examples of errors that have cropped up because of the religious emotion:

 

1. A few years ago, I was at a conference for Noahides. On Friday evening, the leaders of the meeting ushered in Shabbat by lighting seven candles, each of a different color of the rainbow. As they lit each candle, they recited one of the seven Noahide laws.

 

I hope you see the problem.

 

The people who did this meant well. They wanted a way to grow close to Hashem. And they felt that this would be a great way to do it. They were not keeping Shabbat according to the manner of the Jewish people, because that was prohibited. So they invented their own custom.

 

In so doing, they were still violating halacha. Noahides are not permitted to create their own observances. Here they wanted something to grow closer to God. They do not find it fulfilling to keep His Laws. It did not feel like service to them. So, to find some means to feel closer to God, they violated His Law. This does not bring them closer. It moves them away from Hashem. But it satisfied their emotions.

 

This was all about them. If it was service to Hashem they were interested in, they would have kept His commands to them. Since that did not appeal to their emotions, they violated Torah. Their emotions were satisfied. But if it had been about God, rather than themselves, they would not have violated His decree.

 

The sad thing about this story is that rabbis were present at the ceremony. They allowed this violation, because they wanted the Noahides to feel connected to God. They did not want the Noahides to feel like second-class citizens. Instead, they should have been teaching that there is nothing second-class about obeying Hashem. The rabbis left the Noahides with the idea that only the Jew is close to God, because only the Jew has Shabbat. This error is probably what leads to the next.

 

2. There are two rabbis now teaching that Noahides are not prohibited from keeping Shabbat in the manner that a Jew must keep it. This is a violation of halacha. And the rabbis do not argue from the mishnah to prove Noahides may keep Shabbat. They rely on aggadata, from which halacha is not derived.

 

One must ask himself why they are teaching this. It is because the religious emotion has come over some in the Noahide community. They want religious observances of their own, to which they can adhere to make them feel close to God. However, as in the first example, this will not make them close to God. One is not brought closer to God through the violation of His Law. If this were about God, again, they would be content to keep the laws He gave them. Moreover, they could take on other mitzvot, those that are not prohibited. But the one that they want to do is the one they are disallowed to do.

 

What is truly sad about this, is that one of the rabbi, Rabbi K____ is one of which the Noahide should be wary. He has been fleecing the poor Noahide sheep for some time. He offers “name readings” where one can learn his “mazal” based on the Gematria of their name. If one pays R’ K____ $75 ($100 for an audio recording), he can learn that his name means that he has great affinity to justice or righteousness, mercy or beauty, that he is a bulwark against Amalek or whatever other nonsense R’ K___ dreams up. Because he claims that this is Kabbalah, they come to him and trust that this is much different than astrology. They do not imagine that they are getting what equates to a “psychic reading” from a new Sylvia Browne. And how wonderful it is to be told that one represents chesed! They have no means of testing his reading, but they don’t mind. They trust him.

 

It is obvious why they trust him. He says the kinds of things that appeal to the emotion. They want to be told that their name indicates something remarkable about themselves. He grants them their wish. They want to be told that they can keep Shabbat, same as a Jew. He accommodates. And because he is a rabbi, they trust him. They trust to his authority.

 

We Noahides are in a precarious position. We do not know very much. We must have the humility to know that we are not to study Kabbalah. Some rabbis will wish to accommodate us. We must thank them and move on. We do not know enough to even know what we don’t know. Kabbalah, if there is a viable tradition still alive today, is meant for Torah scholars. A Noahide, who is not even to study those parts inapplicable to himself, cannot be qualified such study.

 

We must also distinguish between what pleases us and what pleases God. If in pursuit of a relationship with Hashem, we follow after our fantasies, then it was not Him we were attempting to please. We must start again. We must consider carefully His commands and the philosophy behind them. We must not press on to a deeper area of study until we have mastered this one. This does not appeal to the fantasy or the ego. But no one will go astray following the light of God’s Torah.

 

Jim

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Shattering Myths

Shattering Myths

The foundational texts of Christianity take the time to tell their readers much about Jews and Judaism. The writings of the Church Fathers and the subsequent luminaries of the various Churches maintained this pattern of instructing their respective audiences on the subject of Judaism.

This Christian habit of discussing Judaism is not a positive one. The pages of history are stained with the ramifications of this ugly tradition. And the effects of this pattern are still very evident in the conversation between the Christian and the Jew. The Christian enters into a conversation with a Jew assuming a load of misconceptions that were taught as “gospel” truth. The Jew may talk but the Christian will not hear because he already “knows” what the Jew will say.

The purpose of this humble article is to dispel some of the more prominent myths that Christians believe about Jews and Judaism. It is my hope and prayer that these simple words will help people reconsider. If one person comes to the realization that it is irresponsible to characterize a community with the judgment of their theological opponents then my words were not written in vain.

Myth # 1

The Jewish people reject Jesus because they have a materialistic expectation of the Messiah. The Jewish people expect a conquering king who will give them dominion of the world and the deeply spiritual message of Jesus does not resonate with them.

Fact

The Jewish people reject Jesus’ Messianic claim because they have read the words of the prophets concerning the Messiah. The prophets presented a portrait of the Messiah both in letter and in spirit. Jesus did not conform to the letter of the prophet’s vision; the practical details of the Messianic prediction. But more importantly, Jesus is the very antithesis of the spiritual underpinnings of the Messianic hope.

The prophets of Scripture looked forward to a day when every man, woman and child join together in accepting God as Master over all. They foretold a time where people recognize that their very existence is an undeserved gift from the Creator. The Messiah that the Jewish prophets spoke of will accentuate and emphasize the truth that every iota of existence is intrinsically indebted to God.

The message of the “Messiah” of Christianity stands in direct conflict to the message of the Jewish prophets. His whole claim is built on the obfuscation of the distinction between Creator and created. The deification of a man is a denial of the inherent debt that all existence owes to God and it is certainly not an acknowledgement of that truth.

Myth # 2

The Jewish Scriptures clearly and unequivocally speak of the advent of Jesus. But the Jewish people, under the manipulative influence of their corrupt leaders, refuse to acknowledge this obvious truth.

Fact

The Jewish Scriptures say nothing positive about Jesus. The only way that the gospel writers were able to find “proof” for the advent of Jesus in the words of the prophets is by mistranslating, mauling and manipulating the text of the Jewish Scriptures. Not only do the gospel writers disregard the plain meaning of the Biblical text, but they also violate the spirit of the prophetic word. A passage like Isaiah 53 which is a message of comfort for the Jewish people that are loyal to God is turned by the Church into a word of condemnation and denunciation against these same people.

The Jewish rejection of the claims of the Church is not based on a disregard for Scripture. The Jewish rejection of the Christian claims is rooted in the spirit and in the letter of the Scriptural message.

Myth # 3

The ancient Jewish teachers spoke of a suffering Messiah but modern Jews suppress this teaching in order to discredit Jesus.

Fact

The teaching of a suffering Messiah is as popular amongst the Jewish people as it ever was. This teaching has never been suppressed in any way. This teaching was never presented as the straightforward contextual message of Scripture but as an allegorical and symbolic message. The modern Jewish teachers who focus on the symbolic messages of Scripture still speak of a suffering Messiah today.

The Jewish concept of a suffering Messiah has nothing to do with the Christian teaching about Jesus. One of the deepest differences between these two messages relates to the issue of faith. According to Christianity the suffering of Messiah only benefits those who believe in him and in the atoning power of his suffering. There is no parallel to this belief in all of the vast literature of Jewish thought. The Driver and Neubauer compendium on Isaiah 53 presents a quote from Rabbi Eliyahu di Vidas which would seem to indicate that this rabbi did believe in the concept of faith in the atoning power of Messiah’s suffering. But this quotation is simply a gross mistranslation. Rabbi di Vidas actually says the very opposite of what these professors would have their audience believe.

Myth # 4

The Jewish Scriptures and the ancient Jewish teachers spoke of corporeal manifestations of the Divine but Maimonides suppressed these teachings in order to discredit Jesus. The conflict between Maimonides and the ancient teachers is still reflected in the friction that exists between those Jews who emphasize the Kabbalistic teachings and those who favor the approach of Maimonides. The Jewish rejection of the Christian theology of the incarnation is only one side of the story. The Kabbalistic school of Judaism has no problem with that teaching.

Fact

All of Judaism rejects idolatry. All of Judaism, starting from the Scriptures, defines idolatry as worship of an entity other than the God who revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai as our ancestors preserved that revelation. The entire discussion between the Kabbalists and the rationalists is unrelated to worship. No school of thought within Judaism ever directed worship toward a finite existence no matter what the philosophical explanation. Every school of thought within Judaism identified this worship as the very antithesis of everything that Judaism stands for.

Christians seem to have a difficulty distinguishing between the act of worship and abstract discussions about God’s methods of interacting with the world. They see the distinction between worship and understanding God’s interaction with finite existence as an artificial distinction invented by Jews in a desperate effort to discredit Jesus. But this distinction is obvious in the Scriptures. The Scriptures clearly describe worship as an act of spiritual adultery and not as a misunderstanding of some theological abstract. The Christian devotion to Jesus is idolatry according to the only definition of idolatry that is recognized in Judaism.

Myth # 5

Judaism is a religion based on the arrogant notion that humanity can somehow earn God’s favor.

Fact

Judaism’s foundational premise is that everything belongs to God. No one can give to God that which does not already completely belong to God. As the true Messiah of Israel put this into words when he addressed God: “For everything is from You and it is from Your hand that we give to You” (1Chronicels 29:14). Judaism affirms that God’s favor can never be “earned”; not through works and not through faith. But God’s grace allows our activities and our heart to play a positive part His plan for the world.

It is Christianity that denies the absolute sovereignty of God with the belief that God’s favor can somehow be earned by a “perfect” performance of His commandments.

Myth # 6

The Talmud teaches Jewish people to hate Jesus.

Fact

The Talmud contains more than 2700 pages. In the entirety of the Talmud there are 3 paragraphs that some scholars understand as negative references to Jesus. (Contrast this with the amount of paragraphs that the Christian Scriptures fill with negative misinformation about the Pharisees in particular and about the Jewish people in general.) Jesus and Christianity are non-issues for most Jews. In the Yeshiva schools, where Talmud is taught according to the tradition, Jesus and Christianity are not considered subjects of discussion.

An Appeal to Reason

One of the great Jewish teachers was a man named Hillel. This stories that are recorded about Hillel portray a man of endless patience and deep humility. Hillel taught that the core of Judaism is the maxim: “that which you hate done unto yourself do not do unto others.”

If you are a Christian I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of the Jew. Imagine if someone were to arise and claim that she is an incarnation of Jesus. This new prophet claims that the only valid path to Jesus is through faith in her and that your faith in Jesus is meaningless without faith in her. This prophet claims that the certain passages in the Christian Scriptures speak of her advent but when you read those passages in context you see that she has misappropriated the words of the apostles. This woman expects total and unequivocal faith in her message and she responds with impatience and anger when her words are not received as she would like.

You then meet up with some devoted followers of this prophet and you disregard their efforts to persuade you to join their faith. These followers then point to your rejection of their hero as proof that you are blinded, spiritually hard of heart and a child of the devil.

If all of this were to happen to you, would you feel that you were treated fairly?

If this is not how you would like to be treated then please do not treat others this way.

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